Comfort and Joy

Part One: Comfort


William Bodie sat at the bar of a pub whose name he hadn't caught when he happened into the place several hours ago. Multi-coloured holiday lights burned brightly along the bar and around the mirrors, casting the otherwise dim room in a cheery glow. Christmas Eve, and here he was in the States, working. Not that he'd be doing anything else if he weren't here, but at least he'd be home. There was something to be said about being in England during the holidays.

The place was nearly empty, save for a handful of people. A couple in the corner, drinking heavily. Another poor soul at the end of the bar. And the bartender.

Bodie sighed.

At least, the barman was nice to look at. Sipping his scotch, he contemplated the tall man. Very tall man. The bloke would top him by a good five or six inches.

Grew 'em big here, didn't they? He had light brown eyes that held more than their share of sadness, and something about the younger man intrigued him. Perhaps he just recognised the pain he himself felt, in someone else. He expected that his own eyes held the same light, or lack of it.

This wasn't his first Christmas alone, or even his fifth. At forty-five, he'd seen far too many without....

He cut himself off before he could get too far down that road. No point in thinking about what was missing. There wasn't a bloody thing he could do about it, and it hurt to consider what might have been. But his mind never let him forget for long, and he still couldn't get past it.

When the love of his life had walked away without a backward glance, he'd gone on as he'd promised himself he would. That his partner had never known how he felt mattered not at all. All that did matter was the hole left in his heart with Ray Doyle's name on it. He'd never love anyone like that again.

"Can I get you another one?" The barman asked quietly, interrupting his depressing thoughts.

Startled, Bodie looked up. Pretty, wasn't he? Pale skin and soft, almost delicate features that should not have been as masculine as they were. The bloke looked to be waiting for an answer. Shaking himself mentally, he pulled back from where his mind had wandered. "Yeah, thanks."

"Scotch, straight up?"

Bodie nodded, admiring the quick movements of the long-fingered hands. Another scotch was put in front of him.

"On your tab?"


The bartender nodded and wandered off. Giving the retreating back a quick, semi-interested glance, Bodie was disappointed to see that the man's clothes were too loose to give any indication what the tall, slender body might be like under the layers. Not that it would matter anyway; he wasn't interested in attachments, even of the single-night variety. Learning early on that nothing helped the pain of loss, nothing could ease the aloneness, there just wasn't any comfort left in the world for him. Christ, he was getting maudlin in his old age. Still, every now and then, he forgot about his resolve and reached out, usually to draw his hand back bloodied. His job and his lifestyle didn't allow for emotional attachments. He'd certainly proved that over and over before his partnership with Doyle, and definitely after it.

Sighing windily, Bodie took a small sip of his scotch. This was only the third in the many hours he'd been here. It wouldn't do for him to get pissed while on duty.

Well, technically he was off-duty, but the truth was that he was always on call. The operation he was overseeing was going nowhere fast, and both he and his men were exceedingly frustrated. To make matters worse, nothing was expected to happen for the next two or three days, due to the holidays.

"Is it that bad?" The barman was back, leaning forward slightly, his attention fixed on Bodie.

Starting to give the man a cold none-of-your-business look, the one that usually reduced the most stalwart people to rubble, he changed his mind. Why cause trouble when the man was only being friendly? And he was cute. Why not flirt a little? That would probably get rid of him just as quickly and not cause any bad feelings. It was Christmas, and he'd rather not leave another frightened person in his wake. "Nah, just thinking about the past."

"Yeah. The holidays do that to a person." Smiling, the man seemed to expect Bodie to continue. Wasn't that what Yanks did, spill their guts to bartenders? The English, however, did not.

But he nodded at the statement, letting a small smile touch his mouth. "Too true, mate."

"I haven't seen you around before, do you live in Baltimore?" There was something in the way he asked that question, that made Bodie really look at him. The light brown eyes were alight with intelligence and interest. Interest in him.

The simple regard sparked something he'd thought long since dead. A tiny joyous feeling, just an ember, flickered to life in him. How long had it been since anyone had looked at him with any emotion besides fear? A good-looking man smiling sweetly at him on Christmas Eve was an unexpected gift. One he'd be hard-pressed to turn away from.

Bodie shook his head. "No. I'm here on business, just for a few weeks." Wanting to keep the conversation going after they fell silent, he asked the first thing that came to mind. "How long have you worked here?

Obviously pleased by the question, the other man's smiled broadened. "I don't actually work here. I mean, I do, but not as an employee. I own the place."

Bodie lifted the scotch in salute. "Do you?"

"Me and two other guys." A lot of pride went into that statement.

And why not? There was a lot to be said for being your own boss. But being the owner had its drawbacks, too. "So, you still get stuck working Christmas Eve?"

"We take turns working. But I volunteered to work tonight. I really didn't have much else to do, anyway."

"Me neither," Bodie added, redundantly. The guy obviously knew he had nothing better to do or he wouldn't be here.

"No family, home in England I mean?"

He shook his head. There was nothing except CI5 left for him in England, but it was home. And he'd always considered himself English to his soul. "No. Or none that I've seen for years. What about you?"

"Oh, I have family and friends here. I'm from Baltimore."

The lone man at the end of the bar left, and the bartender went to clean up after him, putting the cash he'd left into the till. Coming back, he smiled at Bodie.

"If you have family, why aren't you with them?" Bodie asked, continuing the conversation.

The wide shoulders went up in a shrug. "It's complicated...excuse me again." He took the check from the couple who had been in the corner. "You're not driving, are you?"

The man shook his head. "No, we're staying around the corner." The couple wobbled out. Bodie wondered if they'd make it back to their hotel without falling.

Looking around, Bodie saw they were alone in the place. For some reason he didn't want to examine too closely, he was captivated. "Tell me about the complications. I've got nothing but time."

The barman laughed. The wonderful musical sound went skating along Bodie's spine. "I thought I was the one people told their secrets to."

"I've heard that, too, but why not tell me a few?"

A hint of suspicion lit the brown eyes. "Why would you want to know?"

So, he wasn't quite the eager young puppy he appeared to be. More to the good. Bodie fancied some bite in people he got involved with. Not that he planned anything of the sort, but it was still nice to know the man wasn't a pushover.

Bodie shrugged casually, but he was curious. "Why not? You're here, I'm here."

"It's nothing really. Just a little stress between me and my family right now."

If he was going to go that far, Bodie wanted a real answer. "Why?"

Now, the barman shrugged again, a small smile on his lips. "They are not pleased with my lifestyle choices."

"Most families are like that, as far as I've seen." Bodie wondered what the man had done to alienate his family. "They always seem to want you to follow a certain path, and if you don't want to, they try and push you onto it, until you either give in, or leave."

"Which did you do?" The question didn't surprise him. He'd already begun to realise this guy was very bright. Not to mention very good-looking, far too much for Bodie's piece of mind. He'd always had a weakness for slender, intelligent, handsome men, even if this one was a bit over-tall.

He answered the question truthfully, though why he bothered was still a mystery. There was something about the other man that soothed him a way few people ever had. Maybe it was his voice, or just the simple interested presence in this unlikely place. "I left...a long time ago."

"How long?"

Again Bodie answered truthfully. "I was fourteen when I left home."

The light eyes registered considerable shock. "You were a runaway?"

"Yeah. But I did okay."

"Where did you go? Good God, most runaways end up on the streets, on drugs, selling themselves."

Bodie thought for a moment; did he really want to talk about this? It no longer had the power to hurt him, so why not? He was far away from anyone who would care, if anyone at all would. And at this point it was nearly thirty years ago. Wanting to keep the other man talking seemed like a good enough reason to him. "I signed myself on to a merchant ship...."

"At fourteen?" Again, considerable surprise coloured the tone.

"Was a big strappin' lad, and they weren't asking too many questions. It was nearly thirty years ago, and a lifetime away."

"How did you survive?" The quiet voice was still choked with shock.

"Quite well, actually." Bodie smiled as memory of those times intruded. "I made friends with the cook and he took care of me. I ate well, better than I had at home. The work was hard, but I was young and it was an adventure."

Visibly shuddering, the bartender closed his eyes for a moment. "Some adventure."

"T'was." Bodie wondered if the man believed him. Telling a tale that might or might not be believed was part of his reasoning for speaking freely, not that it really mattered, or at least that was what he told himself.

The pale pink lips twitched up in a smile of invitation, brown eyes alight with glee. The man looked younger than he could possibly be. "What happened next?"

Bodie was hard-pressed to resist the invitation. Obligingly, he continued. "I stayed on the ship for three years, and then jumped ship in Madagascar."

The other man's eyes widened. "What did you do there?"

"Worked in a bar for a while. Did some smuggling. The usual. Then, I hooked up with a mercenary outfit." Bodie smiled. He was telling the absolute truth, but in such a way as to make it seem like it might be an exaggeration or outright lie. You could tell people anything in the right tone of voice and they wouldn't believe you. He had run guns for a while, ended up in prison, and done all manner of questionable activities, but only the most perceptive of people could see through his outrageously worded stories to the truth of it.

As the tale grew more fantastic, Bodie knew the other man would stop believing him at some point, as any rational person should. It was too excessive to be true. Of course it was, but that was the beauty of the whole thing.

"What did you do when you got home?"

Why he kept answering the questions Bodie didn't know. But it felt right talking to this nameless man on Christmas Eve; maybe a bit of soul purging was necessary now and again. "I joined the army."

He told a few more tales of some of the things he'd done in the Paras and then with the SAS.

And the questions kept coming. "And what are you doing now?"

He stretched his arms back, trying to relieve the stiffness in his back. Truth be told, since he'd hit forty, his back had started to stiffen when he sat for too long in one position. Just another reminder of time passing -- as if he needed one. "I work for a semi-secret, international anti-terrorist organisation."

"Well, that might explain why you're carrying a concealed weapon." The gleeful look turned decidedly serious and the bartender had backed up a step.

Bodie choked on his scotch, and tried to pick his jaw up off the floor. His first thought was to bluff. "What concealed weapon?"

"The one in the shoulder holster that's strapped at your armpit." The light eyes said no bluff was not going to work this time.

Who was this guy? Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world wouldn't notice anything. And if they did notice the slight bulge in his jacket, most of them wouldn't know it was a gun in the first place. The question must have been on his shocked face, because the other man answered.

Sighing, the bartender shook his head, remarkably unconcerned that one of his patrons was carrying a weapon. Of course, there was an explanation for that. "I'm a cop."

How likely was that? Thinking quickly, Bodie dredged up the information he'd been given. "I thought you said you were the owner here?"

A slight smile touched the lush lips. "I'm that, too."

Bodie took a guess. "A Baltimore cop?"

"Yeah. Homicide."

Homicide? He'd never been too keen on cops -- well, except one particular ex-cop of his acquaintance -- but wasn't homicide the top of the line when it came to cops -- at least in the States? "You might have mentioned that sooner."

The bartender grinned at him, his eyes full of mischief. "Why? I would have missed a fascinating story. Most of that's true, isn't it?"

He was really bright, Bodie decided, even if he was a cop. "Yeah. You knew?"

The cop/pub owner nodded, a smug smile touching the pale pink lips. "It's always easier to tell the truth and make it seem like a lie, than to lie and have it accepted as the truth."

Laughing, Bodie was impressed. This guy was good. "What's your name, lad? I think I'd like to buy you a drink."

"Bayliss. Tim Bayliss. Can you tell me which agency you work for?" Amusement clear on his face, Tim leaned on the bar across from Bodie.

He saw the interest and figured he could tell Tim the rest of it. "You don't know? I thought there was only one UN-chartered, multi-national jurisdiction unit about anywhere."

Tim's eyes lit with interest. "CI5?"

Bodie nodded. "Spot on."

"What's your name?"


"First or last?" Standard response, most people did have two names.

"Only," he growled, hoping to make his point, but smiling to take the sting out of his harsh tone. He hated his other names. They only served to remind him of the family he'd just as soon forget.

"Well, Bodie, what are you doing here in Charm City? If you're carrying a gun, my guess is that you're on an assignment." Again, the light eyes were alive with regard he hated to have to disappoint.

But that far he couldn't go, his mission was on a need-to-know basis only. Tim Bayliss, Baltimore homicide detective, had no need to know. "Sorry, lad. I really can't talk about that."

"Aren't I a little old to be called lad?" The words were more amused than annoyed, for which Bodie was grateful.

Bodie looked at him. Thirty-two, tops. And that made him young enough, but he didn't want to alienate the man. "It's just an expression. You're what, ten-twelve years younger than me. I didn't mean you any disrespect by it."

Tim looked at him, Bodie could tell he was sizing him up. "How old are you?"

Old. Bodie felt a million sometimes. "Forty-five."

"I'm thirty-eight. Not even ten years."

"Sorry. You look much younger."

Shrugging, Tim looked around the empty bar. "It's getting kind of late. I'm going to have to close soon."

Disappointment washed over him; he wasn't ready to let Tim go yet. "Okay. I should pay up." Reluctantly, Bodie reached into his pocket for his wallet.

"Tell you what, I haven't had dinner yet, do you want to go and get something? I'll buy, if you tell me more stories."

"Interested, are you?" A warm feeling started through him. He fancied Tim, and a bit of company now would not go amiss. Being alone didn't appeal in the slightest.

"You tell a fascinating tale." Tim smiled sweetly and Bodie felt a pull in his groin he hadn't felt in a damned long time. He wasn't sure that the other man was interested in the way he was, but it would be nice to talk and possibly find out. Sleeping alone didn't appeal either.


Laughing, Tim picked up a ragged flannel, starting to clean up. Bodie watched him move with sure, efficient strokes, enjoying the push and pull of the long body as Tim wiped down the bar.

Locking the door on the bar, Tim pulled his coat tighter around him, wrapping a wool scarf around his head. A light snow had started to fall. It looked like it would be a white Christmas after all.

It also occurred to him that they were unlikely to find any place open at this hour on Christmas Eve. They might be able to find an all-night diner downtown or, if they were willing to drive, out in the suburbs. Anything he could think of was a twenty-five or thirty minute drive north or south.

"You know, I don't think we're going to find any place open at this hour. I mean, it's possible to find a diner or something, but I don't know of anything close."

"So, do you want to just say good night?" There was disappointment and resignation in the words, the blue eyes dropped.

Tim shook his head; he didn't want to be alone. "No. I was going to invite you back to my place. Just for dinner, I mean. I'm sure I have something to eat there."

"You're going to invite a total stranger to your home. Not very bright." Bodie's tone held both censure and amusement.

He didn't see the danger. Bodie seemed, if not harmless, then certainly not intending him any harm. Anyway, the guy worked for CI5, which was one of the top international anti-terrorism organisations in the world. Tim figured he'd be safe enough. "I'm armed."

"So am I." Bodie laughed. "And I'll wager I'm a better shot than you are."

"I wouldn't bet the farm on that. I'm a class A marksman."

A crooked eyebrow rose in question. "Are you now?"

He nodded. "Yes." He was extremely proud of that distinction, having worked damned hard to get it.

"I'll remember that."

"Do you want to come?"

Throwing back his head, Bodie laughed out loud.

It took a second, but Tim realised what he'd said. A blush started at his toes and worked its way up to his bangs. "Oh god. I didn't mean it like that."

"No? Too bad." Bodie was still trying to get his breath.

"It wasn't that funny." Tim would have crossed his arms over his chest, but his coat was too thick, so he stuck his hands into his pockets and scowled.

Sobering at last, Bodie grinned at him. "Yes. Thank you." Bodie took another breath. "Bloody hell! I haven't laughed like that in years." The smile widened and its full power was directed on a stunned Tim. Excitement started to tingle on his nerve endings. Damn, Bodie was beautiful.

Dropping his frown, Tim could not help but smile in return. "Okay. Let's go."

Making a point of looking up and down the bare, snowy street, Bodie's eyes lit with amusement. "Where's your car?"

"At home. We can walk. I only live two blocks from here."

"Convenient. If a little cold." Bodie shivered dramatically.

It was cold. Tim could see the white puffs of their breath as they walked in silence, moving quietly through the falling snow.

Shaking off the wet as he approached his door, Tim spared a thought to the state of his house. He vaguely remembered that he'd cleaned up in the last week and shopped, too. He thought he had the ingredients for tofu stir-fry. Glancing quickly at Bodie, he wondered how his guest would take that?

He shook his head. He should be worrying about other things, like what on Earth he was doing asking a perfect stranger home for dinner. Not just any dinner either, but Christmas Eve! Why? Because Bodie was as lonely as he was and too beautiful to resist. He needed something tonight, to keep the loneliness at bay, to keep the demons that haunted him from finding him for just one night. And Bodie seemed to need the same thing.

The first time he'd looked into those dark, dark blue eyes, he'd been caught like a deer in the proverbial headlights; seeing the absolute aloneness in the other man made it impossible not to respond. It was possible Bodie didn't know he'd allowed the emotions to show, but Tim could not believe that a man as well-trained as Bodie was would let his shields slip so easily, no matter how lonely he might be. No, Tim was nearly certain there had been at least a tacit invitation issued. And now it was up to him to decide if he really wanted to take it up.

If anything happened tonight, it would only be a temporary solution to his problems. But it might put a band-aid on the wounds of his life, so that he could go on for a while longer.

He'd worry about it later. "Come in," he said, opening the door and letting Bodie precede him into the living room.

Bodie glanced around. "Nice. But no decorations."

"I wasn't up for it this year." Usually he made at least a passing attempt at decorating for the Christmas season, but this year his heart hadn't been in it at all. Decorating the bar with Lewis and a grumbling Munch had been all he'd been about to force himself to do.

"Is there a story there?"

"Not much of one. There just didn't seem to be a reason to celebrate this year." Time for a subject change. "Do you want a beer?"

"Yeah." Bodie smiled.

Tim shook his head, focussing in on Bodie. The man was absolutely beautiful. Solidly built, pale skin, blue eyes, and the most ridiculously long black eyelashes Tim had ever seen on anyone in his life. Tim couldn't remember how long had it been since he'd wanted to touch anyone this badly.

Exiting quickly, he retrieved two beers, and handed one to Bodie.

"Thanks." Bodie took a sip and tried to hide a grimace.

Tim knew what Brits thought of American beer, hearing it often enough from the tourists who wandered in. "Not as good as in England?"

Shaking his head, Bodie smiled nicely. "Nope, but I'm not complaining. It's free and it's cold."

"Don't you drink it warm?"

"Room temperature. But I fancy it cold."

"Let me see what I can find for dinner." He started to move towards the kitchen, but turned back. "I should tell you that I'm a vegetarian."

Bodie shrugged. "That's your problem. But I learned a long time ago that when someone cooks you dinner, you say thank you, and eat what's put in front of you. And truthfully, I'm not choosy when it comes to food. Hot is about all I require."

Tim nodded. At least he hadn't made the usual jokes. Taking off his weapon and holster, Tim put it in the drawer where he usually kept it.

He cut up vegetables and the tofu for the stir fry, putting the rice on to boil. In the last few months he'd really had to learn to cook to stay with the vegetarian regime he'd adopted. And he had to say he felt a lot healthier without meat in his life. If only he didn't crave it so.

Dinner well on its way, Tim set the timer and went to join his guest.

Bodie stood at the living room window, staring out at the falling snow. He looked so alone Tim's heart went out to him. "Bodie?" He modulated his voice to be soft and comforting. There was something about a person in pain that called out to him, made him want to reach out, even knowing he was going to get burned again.

Bodie started, turning quickly and reaching into his jacket, before he stilled the move. Quick reflexes. A significant amount of training went into making those moves that sharp.

"Sorry." Bodie's full mouth turned down in a small frown. "It's not always a good idea to sneak up on me."

Tim nodded. "I'll try and remember that." Not that he really expected to see Bodie after tonight. "Dinner will be in about fifteen minutes. Can I get you another beer?"

"No. I can't drink too much. In theory, I'm on call."

"Tonight?" He wasn't going to point out the obvious, that it was Christmas Eve. Law Enforcement didn't know holidays or any kind of special events. He was lucky to have tonight and tomorrow off and in theory he could be called in if an emergency came up.


That was depressing, never being off duty. He had to have down-time from the job, or he'd burn out. "I don't think I'd care to work for your organisation."

Bodie shook his head sadly. "Probably not. It's not for most people."

"How did you get into it?" Tim was really curious; why would anyone want that job? But the answer came easily enough -- because it had to be done.

"Bad luck." Bodie smiled, a touch self-deprecatingly. "No. I was seconded from the SAS. How did you get to be a cop?"

Tim met the blue eyes, speaking the words almost without thinking about them. "I wanted to speak for those who could no longer speak for themselves."

A sceptical eyebrow rose. "Do you really believe that?"

Did he? At one time, he believed it absolutely. Now? He shrugged. "I did when I started."

"And now?"

"Now? I don't know what I believe anymore." That was part of what was wrong with him. He was still a good cop, but his heart had gone out of the job.

Bodie nodded. "Yeah. I know what you're saying."

"Are you burning out on CI5?"

" I've been with the mob for almost eighteen years. It's changed considerably since I first joined up," Bodie paused for a second. "And so have I. I've gone as far as I could go with it."

"You can't move into management or something?" It would not be his first choice, but eventually he'd accept promotion, if he could get one. Given the rumours about him and his life style, that might not be as easy as he'd once thought.

It was ironic that when he'd first joined the police force, he'd thought there was no higher calling than working in Homicide. Now, as he was considering his options, sometimes he thought that Homicide would tear the life out of him -- and it almost had.

"No. I don't have the educational ties for it," Bodie answered the question, totally oblivious to Tim's thoughts.

Something in the way he said that, let Tim know he wasn't just talking about finishing school. "Educational ties?"

"I didn't go to the right schools. Actually, I didn't go to school at all."

"Yeah. That's always a problem." Too many good cops he'd known were passed over for promotion out of uniform because they didn't have a college degree.

Silence descended. Tim could hear the plop of the wet snow on the concrete below his window. The buzzer on the stove went off, startling both of them.


"I should have asked sooner, but is there anything I can do?"

"It's done now, thanks anyway."

Dinner was punctuated by small talk. Bodie told more stories of his adventures and Tim added a few of his own tales of life in Homicide.

Bodie laughed appropriately as he finished talking about the biggest drug bust in Baltimore history, which he and his ex-partner Frank had stumbled onto. "I mean, there we were staring at all this heroin, and the poor guy wasn't even the guy we were looking for."

"I wish it was always that easy."

"Yeah," Tim agreed.

It was growing late, and pretty soon he'd have to make a decision. Did he want Bodie to stay or to go? Not much of a decision after all, It had been a long time since he'd held anyone, and Bodie was more than beautiful. Would the emptiness that always came from loveless sex be worth the comfort he needed tonight?


Bodie tossed his napkin onto his plate. "Thanks for the dinner and the company. Can I help you with the clean-up?"

That would delay the inevitable for a few moments. But Tim shook his head. "No. I'll throw the dishes into the sink and worry about it later."

Nodding, Bodie stood. "Then I should go."

Meeting the blue eyes, Tim could swear the questions he'd been asking himself were plain on Bodie's face. Of course, if he were wrong, Bodie might slug him. Taking a chance, he smiled invitingly. "Only if you want to."

Bodie's smile lit his face, and he held out his hand. "I'd rather not leave."

Tim didn't hesitate. Standing, he took the callused hand in his. For a second they just stared at each other. Then Tim moved slowly, leaning forward the necessary inches to bring their lips together. Their mouths brushed softly, sweetly. And Tim sighed as strong arms closed around him, pulling him close.

Bodie was shorter than he was, but his body was hard as steel and so very solid. Tim ran a tentative hand down his back, feeling the tightening muscles beneath his fingers. Breathing in deeply, the scent of the Englishman intoxicated his senses; some unique combination of sweat, cologne, and Bodie's own smell.

"God, you smell good."

Laughing, Bodie planted his nose in Tim's neck, snuffling loudly. "You do, too."

Tilting the pale face up to his, Tim kissed him again, moulding his mouth softly to the full, pouty lips. Bodie's tongue moved forward, pushing slowly into his mouth, exploring along his teeth and gums. Damn, it had been too long since he'd kissed anyone. The warm, slow touch was making his knees weak and his cock ache.

Starting to tremble with need, Tim had to sit down or he would have fallen down.

"Bedroom?" Bodie asked, sliding his hand across Tim's cheek in a soft caress.

For a second, he leaned into the touch. Then stepping back to take Bodie's hand again, he led the other man down the hall to his bedroom, his nerves simmering with anticipation and a little fear.

Taking a stranger to bed was always a chancy proposition, but it wasn't going to stop him. With loneliness pressing him hard the last few weeks, he had to have a least a few moments of respite, or the tension would drive him quietly insane. He'd chosen to work at the bar tonight because he'd hoped it would keep him busy and his mind away from other things.

Now, he was leading a stranger to his bed in hopes of finding some comfort in the dark. Not really expecting much, he would be grateful for half of that.

As they entered the cool, dim room, Tim turned expectantly towards him and Bodie pulled the tall man into his arms. Tim melted, leaning heavily against him, trusting that he could hold the extra weight without a problem. Long and slender, Tim felt wonderful. The sure hands stroked down Bodie's back to his arse, and settled there, kneading. Bodie pressed back into the caress, the feel of hands on his clothed flesh reminding him why he'd chosen to do this again.

Wanting to see, but not willing to have the harsh overhead light, he reached back and snapped on the bedside light.

"I want to see you. All of you," Tim growled softy, his eyes sparkling.

Stepping back, Bodie held his arms out from his side in invitation. "Then strip me." There was nothing he loved better than gentle hands making him naked.

A radiant smile lit Tim's face. "I can do that."

It had been far too long since his last encounter, and that hadn't been all that pleasant. Despite knowing better than to have expectations about anything, Bodie couldn't help having high hopes for tonight's endeavour.

The hands on his skin were indeed gentle, just what he needed after years of harsh touches. Somehow, he'd known Tim would be kind, giving him something more than just sex. They might only be two nearly nameless strangers in a quiet encounter, but Bodie expected they were both in need of more than a quick fuck.

His gun and shoulder holster were deposited on the dresser, his shirt and undershirt coming off next, leaving him bare from the waist up. He shivered a little as the chilly air hit his warm skin.

Brushing a hand across his chest, Tim slid his fingers down until he reached Bodie's belt, pulling him forward into his arms, kissing him thoroughly.

Pulling back, he complained playfully. "Hey, you're not done here!"

Tim smiled. "You're hard to resist."

Bodie heeled off his shoes, kicking them free. "S'nice to hear."

There was another kiss before continuing, then Tim carefully removed his trousers and briefs, minding his hard cock as he did it.

"Wow." The light of appreciation in the warm eyes delighted Bodie.

"My turn." Bodie's fingers itched to touch the pale skin.

Standing still, Tim allowed him to strip the clothes off his long body. His clothes ended up on the floor next to the bed.

They embraced. With the feel of skin on skin, Bodie's arousal skyrocketed. Opening his mouth for Tim's tongue, he granted the other man licence for what he wanted. For a long time Tim just held and kissed him, his slender hands roaming freely.

Bodie lowered Tim to the bed slowly, enjoying the slight yielding. Responding enthusiastically, Tim slid his arms round Bodie's back and shoulders, trailing long fingers over his skin.

As they moved against each other, desire built, driving Bodie higher and higher. But this wasn't going to be enough. He wanted more. Thinking that trusting this gentle man a little more would probably be all right, Bodie knew what he really needed tonight. Something he was pretty sure Tim could provide. "Do you want to fuck me?"

Tim took a deep breath, and nodded. Seeing the tenderness entering the light eyes, Bodie knew before they started it would be good.

"I've got condoms and lube in the drawer." Tim indicated the far bedside table.

Bodie reached for the required items, handing them to Tim.

For some reason, Tim looked really nervous. Belatedly, he realised that Tim might not have all that much experience. But Bodie had found that oftentimes gentleness was more important than experience anyway. "What?"

"I haven't done this with a guy before." Tim's head dropped, a pink flush appearing over his bare skin. Enchanted, Bodie wondered how many men would admit to that, especially at a time like this. His excitement went up again. There was no doubt in his mind that Tim would be wonderful.

"Have you with a woman?"


It would be fine. Bodie smiled reassuringly. "Works about the same. Don't worry about it. Just do it."

"Okay." Tim smiled, opening the lube and squeezing it onto his fingers. "How do you want to do this?"

"Face to face. I fancy watching your eyes when you do it."

Taking his time, Tim prepared him, spending a long time working his fingers deep into him. Bodie was slowly driven insane with desire, loving the feeling of those long fingers moving inside him.

Ready at last, Tim slid slowly into him. Stilling for a moment, he gave him time to adjust to the invasion before starting to move very slowly.

The bright burning changed quickly to exquisite pleasure, just as Bodie had known it would. Grunting, he pushed back against Tim's thrust, hard. Every time Tim pressed further in, sensations overwhelmed him.

"Harder, mate. I won't break." Bodie gasped, wondering how he found the breath to speak.

Moving faster and harder, Tim drove into him. Flying high with the sensations of the movements, he couldn't hold back any longer. The world shattered into a million pieces of bright white light, and he went with it, surrendering to the absolute pleasure of the moment.

When he got his breath back, he was pulled into Tim's arms and held tightly. Forcing his eyes open, he smiled. "Wonderful."


Laying his head on Tim's chest, Bodie closed his eyes, and slid into sleep.

Bodie didn't stay that way. It seemed like only a few moments before he was wide awake. Easing out of Tim's embrace, he picked up his jacket and made his way into the lounge. He was surprised he was having trouble staying asleep; usually after a couple of drinks and great sex, he slept like the dead.

He pulled a newspaper clipping out of his jacket pocket, and spread it on the coffee table in front of the sofa. Bodie sighed. The article -- a two page colour spread -- was about Eastland's Police Chief who was making waves, again. Just like he always did, even when he'd been someone else.

Tears stung the backs of Bodie's eyes, but he'd never let them fall. Letting Ray Doyle walk away from him eight years ago had been the biggest mistake of his life. How could he have been so stupid?

Of course, he knew the answer to that question. As much as he'd loved Ray, he'd known there could never be anything between them, because Ray was straight. Had said so, many a time, whenever Bodie'd brought the subject of sex up, in fact.

It should not have been a surprise that when CI5 went international, Ray had opted out. He'd said he wanted to do something else, something where he didn't have to use a gun any more. Their boss at the time, George Cowley, had worked his magic and suddenly Ray Doyle had become Alan Cade, stalwart liberal policeman. And Bodie hadn't said one word to stop him, not one bloody word.

He shook his head, wondering at his own stupidity sometimes. At the very least, he should have told his partner how he felt. But no, too afraid of the consequences, he'd remained silent, letting Ray leave. The worst that could have happened was that Ray would have clocked him one and been done with him.

But he'd lost Ray anyway. As Alan Cade, he didn't think it a good idea for him and Bodie to see each other all that often. The times they did meet became less and less frequent until finally they had gone a year, then two, without seeing each other. It had been five years since the last time. Bodie missed him dreadfully, but had no idea what to do or say to make it right, even if he did go see him.


A soft voice permeated his misery, startling him. Bodie looked up, meeting Tim's eyes as he lounged in the hall entrance wearing only an open blue robe.

"What this?" Tim asked, coming into the lounge and sitting down next to him. Bodie saw him glance at the clipping.

"A newspaper clipping." Perhaps he should avoid this topic. But he'd always wondered if sharing the pain might make it easier to bear. This seemed like the night for it. And there was no one left in CI5 who'd remember or care, most of the old mob was gone or dead.

Tim pressed him, just as he'd known the other man would. "I can see that. Who's the man?"

"Alan Cade, Chief Constable of Eastland." Well, that was the truth, if not all of it. He should just tell Tim that he didn't want to talk about it, but somehow the words would not come to him. Truth was, he did want to talk about it.

Seeming to understand, Tim pushed a little harder. "Let me rephrase. Who is he to you?"

One last evasion. "Someone I used to know."

One more push. "Lover?"

Bodie was silent. Part of him was dying to tell someone, anyone who might understand. And he knew instinctively that Tim would understand. Hating the answer with all his heart, he felt compelled to say it out loud anyway. "No. He was never my lover." But he should have been.

Meeting the light eyes, he was surprised by the depth of understanding he saw there. "He's a very good-looking man. You wish he'd been your lover, don't you?"

"What makes you say that?" Bodie wondered if he had been that obvious or if Tim was that perceptive. Some of both, he expected.

Tim smiled. "That he's good-looking? It's pretty obvious. Even with the bad pictures."

"No, that I wished he was my lover." Bodie licked his suddenly dry lips.

"You're sitting here in the middle of the night, looking at his picture."

"It could be research." That was ludicrous, even he couldn't believe he'd suggested it. This would be very hard to talk about, but it might be time that he did. Why he would tell this stranger all his secrets he didn't know, but Tim seemed to understand, if not him, then the loneliness that was his life.

"Naked. At two in the morning?" Tim's tone was amused. "If you don't want to talk about it, just tell me." And he knew that Tim would back off completely, part of the unspoken rules they seemed to be playing by tonight.

He started to say just that, but couldn't quite get the words out. "It's complicated."

"I've heard that before." Tim reached out, taking his hand, and interlocking their fingers.

The comforting touch was necessary just then. It gave him the strength to push past the need to talk, at least for the moment. He expected they would get to Ray later on. Now they needed the subject changed, and he remembered that Tim had been less than forthcoming with information. "Yeah, and you never did tell me how spending Christmas Eve with your family was complicated."

Leaning back against the sofa, Tim sighed. "I'm bisexual. New to it, in fact."

The pieces clicked together. "You're a bit old to have just discovered such a thing about yourself."

"There were other circumstances that made me deny it for a long time." Tim held up his other hand. "And please don't ask, I still can't talk about it."

Bodie would have loved to know what those 'other circumstances' were, but he wasn't going to ask. Unfortunately, looking at Tim's expression and what he hadn't said, Bodie could make a good guess. Abuse was something he knew the symptoms of too well. It was enough to make a fourteen-year-old boy leave home, or a young man deny half of what he was in hopes of outrunning the nightmares.

Granting Tim's wish, he asked around the question. "What made you give in to your feelings?"

A half-smile creased Tim's mouth. "A man I met, at just the right time."

"Why aren't you still seeing him?" Bodie knew without asking that Tim would not be here with him if he were still even remotely involved with someone else.

Shrugging his shoulders, Tim's cheeks turned pink. "He started to want more than I could give."

Bodie could understand that.

Unlocking their fingers, he slid his arm around Tim's wide shoulders. "What's the problem with your family?"

Tim leaned into him, snuggling down and getting comfortable. "Well, they haven't dealt well with my bisexuality."

"Why on earth did you tell them?" He couldn't believe that Tim would do something that stupid. Of course, he didn't know Tim that well, but the other man seemed intelligent.

"Wasn't my choice. My lover at the time came to see me when I was in the hospital. And my mother asked me who he was. I'm afraid she nagged me until I was so annoyed I just told her the truth."

The rest of the story was easy enough to guess. "And she told the rest of them."

"Just my sister and cousin."

"And they have a problem with it."

"No so much that, well, Jim isn't pleased, but he'll be okay. No, my sister wants to talk about it with me." Tim's face was a mask of mock horror.

Bodie laughed, once again thankful that he didn't have a family to deal with. "Yeah, I can see how it's complicated. What about seeing friends?"

"That's a problem too, I...." He trailed off on a sigh. "I just couldn't."

"Why not?"

Tim's expressive eyes dropped. "I'm trying not to be as close to the person I really wanted to see."

Bodie slid two fingers under Tim's chin and raised his head and, meeting the light brown eyes, he lifted an eyebrow in question.

Seeing the sadness, the hurt, the answer was not a surprise.

Tim's voice was quiet as he spoke. "He was my partner and he quit last spring. I was very close to him and his family."

This wasn't making much sense to Bodie; why wouldn't Tim want to be close to his partner anymore? "Didn't you want to stay that way?"

Tim shrugged. "I love his family, but I have some issues to resolve with him."

There was an answer, of course. It didn't even take a genius to figure it out, now did it? "And you're in love with him?"

His head bowed, his voice tortured, Tim nodded. "I don't want to be, really, I don't."

Been there, done that. Bodie knew the feeling only too well. "Oh, mate. I do know what you're saying."

Looking up, Tim met his eyes, the sadness in them reaching out from Tim's soul. "Do you?"

"Yeah. More than I ever could tell you." Bodie pointed to the picture of Cade in the newspaper. Just getting the words out stung deeply. "He was my partner in CI5 for ten years."

"And you were in love with him?"

"Still am." He sighed, knowing he'd love Doyle until he died, and after, if they let him.

"Is he married?"

"No." Of course, that didn't matter. Doyle had never given him any indication that he'd be interested, and Bodie would have taken anything, anything at all as a sign. There had never been one.

Tim's eyes flashed almost golden in the dim light of lamp. "Then why the hell aren't you with him?"

"What?" Bodie shook his head. Being married or not had nothing to do with it.

"If he's not married, why aren't you with him?"

Why couldn't Tim understand, it wasn't that simple. "He's straight."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. He said it enough times." Bodie remembered their conversations, too well. They'd spent a lot of time talking when they were just pissed enough to loosen their tongues. Doyle always went on about his exploits with women, ever so subtly telling Bodie that he had no interest in men "that way".

"Did he know how you felt?"

That was a logical question, even if he didn't want to think about the answer. He was sure that Doyle must have known. Even if he'd never come right out and said it. The hunger, the love, would have been written on Bodie's face. Where Ray was concerned, he'd never been good at hiding his emotions. "I can only assume he did."

"But you don't know for sure."

He shook his head. Doyle had to have known. "We were partners for ten years. He knew how I felt."

"You mean you didn't tell him or ask him?" Tim sounded angry.

Bodie wanted to ask why, but decided Tim wouldn't answer. He'd effectively changed the subject from his partner to Bodie's.

This whole conversation was too far out of control, and had become too painful to consider. What if Doyle hadn't known?

But he must have. Bodie could not conceive of he idea that he hadn't known just how Bodie felt, and ignored it. That was what hurt so badly, that neither of them had acknowledged it at all. They had shook hands and gone their separate ways. "At the last, I couldn't ask. He was leaving."

"And you didn't go after him." The light eyes closed, and Tim took a deep breath.

It dawned on Bodie that this wasn't just about his letting Doyle go. Tim's partner must figure in here somewhere...or someone else, maybe? "Why are you so angry? Who let you go without telling you how they felt?"

"No one." Tim shook his head, his eyes still closed, as if he could hide from the truth by not looking at it.

"But he did, didn't he?" It must have been Tim's partner who'd hurt him so terribly as only a partner could do.

"I know Frank cares about me." Opening his eyes, Tim looked right at Bodie. "I know he does." But what else could Tim say?

Bodie knew he'd defend Doyle to his death before he'd say anything negative about him or let anyone else say anything. "But you're hurt that he left."

Tim hesitated for a moment and when he spoke his voice was hoarse with hurt. "Yes. I don't want another partner. I want him."

Gently, Bodie probed the wound. It was much easier on this end, but he knew the hurt Tim was feeling, better than he would ever be able to admit, except perhaps to Tim, who would understand. "Why did he leave?"

"That's complicated." Tim laughed bitterly. "Very complicated."

Bodie just looked at him, waiting for him to go on. He knew Tim would, taking about it was the only comfort either of them would have. Pulling Tim a little closer, he hoped to give a little bit of comfort.

"He froze and I took the shot meant for him. Until that second I didn't realise how much I cared about him. I couldn't let him be hurt." As Tim spoke, his voice started to waver and his light eyes glittered.

"How bad was it?" He was forcibly reminded of the time Ray had been shot, when it had nearly killed him to have to go on with the investigation while Ray was in surgery. But he'd done as Cowley had ordered, only because it was Cowley.

"Very bad. I died on the table and they had to resuscitate me." Tim shuddered visibly.

Tim was probably still having a hard time dealing with what happened. He'd mentioned that it occurred last spring, and that was what, seven or eight months ago? Not nearly long enough to deal with almost dying.

When Doyle had been shot, Bodie spent a long time talking about what had happened. He would bet Tim had no one to talk to and it was building up inside him. Losing his partner probably exacerbated the whole problem.

He could feel for Tim's partner, too. If he'd cared about Tim at all, and Bodie was sure he did, he'd probably been devastated by the shooting. Bodie could easily imagine what it must have been like for Frank. It felt like the guilt of the damned and nothing Tim could say would have helped. "I'm sure it had a tremendous impact on your partner."

"Too much of one." Tim's quiet voice crackled with pain and he took a deep breath.

"And you never talked about how you felt?"

Tim shook his head. "No. I couldn't."

Nodding, Bodie understood. The subject was so fraught with emotions that thinking about it was painful. When you were sure that the other person could not possibly return your feelings there was nothing to say. "It was the same with me and Ray."

"Your partner?"

"Yeah. Ray Doyle. But there was no talking about that with you and Frank, was there?"

"No. Even if he felt the same, there was nothing I could or would do about it. Frank is happily married. More than that. I love his wife and adore his kids." As Tim glanced around, Bodie watched his eyes train on the newspaper. "I thought you said the guy's name was Ray? This guy is Alan Cade."

Bodie smiled. "One and the same."

"He changed his name?" Tim's tone said he found that hard to believe.

But it was standard operating policy for his organization. "When you leave CI5 alive, you get a new identity."

"I take it most don't leave CI5." Good guess.

Sighing, Bodie shook his head. "Alive. The mortality rate of the agents is depressingly high. But most stay in the service for their career. For an agent, there isn't any farther up the food chain or better you can do. CI5 is the best of the best."

"But Ray left."

"He got tired of it, of the killing, of the violence. I think that he wanted to put down his gun and never pick it up again." What they had done had been important, still was important.

Tim seemed to understand instinctively. "You didn't understand that, did you?"

"Not really. But I accepted his choice." Only because he had no choice and he wasn't even asked for an opinion.

"And let him go." A world of weariness went into those quiet words

Again, only because he had no choice at all. "Yeah. But I didn't want to."

"How long has it been?"

Too long, far too long. Bodie sighed deeply. "Nearly eight years. And not a day goes by I don't regret it."

Tim nodded. "Yeah. I understand. You should go see him. Maybe things have changed for him."

"And maybe not. Maybe he's married; last I saw, he was really involved with a woman." Bodie thought with disdain of Marie-Pierre Arnoux. She was the coldest woman Bodie had ever met, and he couldn't imagine what Ray saw in her.

"You'll never know unless you go see him."

Bodie shrugged. He didn't want to talk about it anymore. It was Christmas and all talking about Ray did was depress him more. "Let's go back to bed, hm?"

"You think you can sleep?" Tim's smile said sleep wasn't first on his list of bedroom objectives right now.

And it wasn't exactly what he had in mind either. "You think you could help me with that?"

"It would be my pleasure."

And mine too, Bodie added silently, standing up. He pulled Tim to his feet, kissing him quickly, his hands making a quick foray into the open robe, caressing along the fine pale skin. Then, taking his hand, he led Tim into the bedroom.

Bodie pulled off his robe, burying his face in Tim's neck. The warm breath tickled his throat, making him want to giggle; that and his nerves. Big hands travelled over Tim's back to cup his buttocks, the blunt fingers trailing inward just enough to tease. Tim groaned, leaning into the gentle touch.

Lowering him to the bed, Bodie settled on top of him, kissing him passionately. He relished the feel of the hard muscles and smooth skin covering his own, and tried not to wish they were someone else's. Pushing the traitorous thoughts from his mind before they could even form, Tim turned his attention to the man holding him.

Bodie kissed along his collarbone and down the sternum, moving to capture a nipple in his mouth. Tongue and teeth distracted him with exquisite sensations, and Tim arched up, panting. God, it felt good. The clever tongue was torturing him and he loved every minute of it. Delighted with the tender ministrations, his mind started to shut down as he gave himself up to the pleasure.

"Enjoy that, did you?" the amused English voice asked, kissing his lips again.

"Yeah," Tim gasped out in a breathless voice. "You could do it again."

"I could." Bodie moved over to the other side of Tim's chest, repeating the move.

Tim arched up again, loving the sweet sensations tearing through him. Bodie was too good at this, way too good. Not that he was complaining or anything.

Moving down, Bodie licked along his widespread thighs. Tiny shards of delight raced outward from each touch. Cupping his balls in one big palm, Bodie kissed the head of his cock. Tim cried out, unable to help responding wildly, bucking up, looking for more stimulation, the sensations threatening to overwhelm him. "Bodie." It came out sounding like a whimper or a plea.

Howling incoherently as Bodie took him deep into his throat, he felt the pleasure coming over him in long waves, building and building. But he didn't want it to end here. There was something more, a dark fantasy he'd harboured for something new, something that terrified him as it titillated. And in this second, on this strange night, Bodie seemed the perfect man to give it to him.

"What?" Bodie looked up at him when Tim touched his shoulder.

"Do you want to... um... you know. Fuck me?" Damn, that was harder to ask than he'd thought it would be. But he wanted it.

Bodie smiled gently at him, stroking along his side. "Unless I miss my guess, you haven't done it before."

Tim nodded. "But I've wanted to. Just never found the right partner."

"Lad, I'd love to. But only if you're sure."

Nodding, he handed Bodie the lubricant and condoms, and moved onto his belly. A tiny tendril of fear crept into his excitement. Did he really want to do this, with a stranger? The desire rushing through him let him ignore the warning.

"Why not roll over onto your side."

Moving to lie on his side with his back toward Bodie, he crooked a knee forward. "Okay?"

His shoulder received a wet, open mouth kiss. Tim shivered pleasantly as Bodie moved a hand slowly down his body, caressing his damp skin. Lying down behind him, Bodie shifted, throwing one leg over his thigh, tilting Tim forward just a little more. The big hands kept moving on his flesh, stroking him softly.

A warm mouth touched the back of his neck, sending new sensations down his spine. Tim sighed. It felt so good to be touched and stroked. He wanted to get lost in the wonderful feelings cascading over him, but he didn't let himself go with it, not just yet anyway.

Kissing and licking each knob of his spine, Bodie moved slowly downward. When the other man reached his destination, Tim jumped in surprised pleasure. He could not believe what Bodie was doing to him. No one had ever done anything like that before, and he found that he loved it. Squirming as the talented tongue continued to move inward, Tim groaned loudly, trembling as the rapture nearly overwhelmed him. The ecstasy made it impossible to breathe or think. He dug his fingers into the bedding as he surrendered to the bliss.

Just when he thought he'd come or die, Bodie pulled back. He whimpered in protest, but Bodie laughed. "There's more, mate, I promise you. It will get better."

Tim didn't believe anything could be better than what Bodie had just been doing. Taking a deep breath, he managed to force the word out. "How?"

Bodie chuckled, "Trust me."

Hearing Bodie open the lubricant, Tim tensed a little. This was what he wanted, had wanted it for a long time, but he was still a little afraid, too. As the first finger slid halfway into him, he froze automatically.

"Are you all right?" The concern was apparent and Tim appreciated his lover's consideration -- it went a long way towards easing his trepidation.

All he could do was nod. It felt different, odd, but not at all unpleasant. Moving back against the fingers, he tested the feel of it. This might be an acquired taste, after all.

Bodie continued slowly, trying to gently stretch him. Once he got used to the feel, he did like it -- the movement and the fullness built the pleasure in him, making him want more. So wonderful were the sensations, he thought he could come from the fingers moving inside him.

After taking him nearly to the brink, Bodie finally stopped what he'd been doing and moved him into position for something more. Another small spiral of fear ran through him, but it failed to dampen his excitement. With the exhilaration still lingering inside him, Tim was more than ready to try this.

Bodie moved forward, pushing until he was inside.

It hurt, worse than he'd thought it would. Panting and sweating, he took a deep breath, biting his lip against the pain.

Easing a hand onto Tim's stomach, Bodie rubbed in long slow circles, comfortingly, soothingly. "I know. Hurts, doesn't it? Press back against me. It'll help."

Doing as he'd been instructed, he found the manoeuvre worked, and the pain eased a little.

"Again," Bodie ordered, still stroking up and down his stomach.

When the constriction had eased, Bodie pushed the rest of way inside him, stopping again to let him adjust. Tim wiggled a little on the fullness, deciding he did like the sensation.

Carefully, Bodie started to move. At first, there was only an absence of pain and the sensation of movement inside. Then, Bodie hit something deep inside him and the world burst into shards of exquisite pleasure. His whole body leaped, lightning singing along his nerve endings, and he gasped.

"Fancy that, did you?" Bodie's tone was smug.

Not that Tim cared at all, all he wanted was to feel that sensation once more. "Do it again," he demanded.

When Bodie slid in, Tim pressed his hips back to meet the thrust. Sparks flew outward from inside him. "Damn! Bodie!"

After a moment, he was beyond talking, beyond thinking. All that existed was the extraordinary thrill of what Bodie was doing to him. It went on seemingly forever -- the building pressure, the blinding lights, the sumptuous pleasure. Vaguely he could hear Bodie shouting something. Holding on tightly, his eyes squeezed shut, he cried out sharply as orgasm took him hard.

"Bodie?" he grunted softly as Bodie pulled out of him, tender tissue protesting the abuse given it.

"Sorry. Are you okay?" He patted Tim's ass gently.

"That was... was... I don't have words to describe how that was."

Bodie laughed. "Yeah. I know, mate."

Nodding, Tim yawned hugely. He was so sated and worn out that he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. "Sleep."

"Good idea." Bodie sounded just as tired.

Tim heard a distant ringing in his ears. Reaching out blindly, he tried to shut off the alarm clock. It wasn't on, but hitting the switch turned the news on. Tim knew he was defeated, and now he had to go to the bathroom. Shifting, he expected to encounter naked flesh, but didn't and was disappointed to find Bodie gone, though not terribly surprised.

Prying himself out of bed, he made his way to the bathroom. Coming out after he was done, he saw the light on and Bodie talking on a cell phone.

"Come on, Mr Malone, it's Christmas day. I'll come home in a couple of days." Bodie stopped talking and listened. "No. It's snowing here. I don't care if it's all falling apart. Fine. Fine. Tomorrow."

"Problem?" Tim asked when Bodie disconnected his cell with a snap.

Bodie's handsome face wore an unpleasant grimace. "Bloody tightwad boss. Wants me to come home today."


Crossing his arms over his chest, Bodie sighed. He was a picture of total frustration. "The op we've been on has been scrubbed. Bad intel. I've got to get the lads out of where they are and then get out of here. No rest for the weary." He gave Tim a chagrined smile. "Looks as if I'll be working today after all."

"I'm sorry." And he was. But he and Bodie would not have much more time together even if the agent didn't have to leave right away. It wasn't the way these sort of things worked.

"No, lad, I am. Would have enjoyed spending more time with you." There was real regret in the dark blue eyes. Reaching out, Bodie's big hand caressed his cheek.

Leaning into the touch, Tim was disappointed, but not fatally so. He knew they were just two lonely people who managed to find a little bit of solace on Christmas eve, but damn, he liked Bodie. "I should go see my family anyway."

"Or Frank?"

Let's not go there now. Tim shook his head. In the cold light of morning, he could not even begin to think about Frank. "Will you be visiting Eastland when you go home?"

Bodie seemed to force a smile. "I've been considering doing just that. You had a point when you said I'd never given him any say. Perhaps I'll just go, talk to him."

"I think you should." Maybe things would work out for them; Tim truly hoped it would. Someone out there should be happy and get what they wanted. He knew it would never be him. And as things stood now, he didn't want it to be him, anyway.

"C'mere." Bodie held open his arms, and Tim stepped into them. "It's been the best Christmas Eve I've had in years. Thanks."

For Tim too, he could not remember a sweeter Christmas Eve, not since he was a very small child. "You're welcome." Tim kissed him deeply -- bittersweet for the leaving, but tender nonetheless.

"I need a shower and...then I have to leave." The reluctance in Bodie's tone touched him.

"I know."

Bodie shook his head, his blue eyes sad. "I wish I could say we'd meet again, but I don't know that it's possible."

"If you're in Baltimore again...." Tim let it trail off; no use worrying about it.

"I'll do that. Now, would you like to join me for a shower?"

"Sure. But aren't you in a hurry?"

"No one's life is at stake, nothing's going to happen. I've got a bit of time, if you've a mind."


Tim followed him into the bathroom.

Tim contemplated the blank TV screen, not really having enough energy to turn the damn thing on. Bodie had left after breakfast, and all he had left to do was the dishes.

The phone rang, startling him. At the last second before the machine picked up, he grabbed it.

"What!" he scowled into the phone, not in the mood to talk to anyone. Why had he even picked up the phone?

"Good. I caught you before you left." Frank's voice was unusually bright, sounding almost gleeful.

Tim did not trust that tone one bit. "What, Frank?"

"Mary needs you to pick up some heavy whipping cream for the pies on your way over here."

He'd told Frank that he wasn't coming; he knew he had, and so did Frank. Still, he couldn't quite bring himself to call Frank on it, so he played along. "Nothing's going to be open."

"There's a 7/11 just off Charles Street."

Tim took as deep breath, admitting defeat. He really didn't want to be alone. "I'll be over soon."

The smile in Frank's voice came through the wires and warmed Tim's heart. "Good. Livvy expects her present."

He'd bought her four, not to mention a few for the rest of the family. "I have them."

"Never doubted you for a moment." Frank hung up.

Tim sighed. Maybe it would be a merry Christmas, after all.

-- THE END --

Originally published in Second Variation on the Theme of B and D, Keynote Press, 1999

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